German Series in Canada
"Bauhaus - A New Era"
Audiences in Canada are now also getting the chance to watch Director Lars Kraume’s series about the Bauhaus. Kraume specializes in historical movies. In recent years, his expert handling of two periods of Germany’s post-war history – one West, one East – has won over audiences in his box office hits "The People Vs. Fritz Bauer" and "The Silent Revolution".
By Jochen Kürten / Deutsche Welle
A series to mark the Bauhaus centenary yearIn 2019, the German film and television director, who was born in Italy in 1973 and grew up in Frankfurt, addressed the year’s most significant topic in terms of cultural history – the Bauhaus centenary – portraying the early years of the Bauhaus in a series that is as fascinating as it is historically informative. Following a screening to film professionals of the first two episodes at the Cannes Series Festival, the world premiere of all six episodes at the Munich Film Festival and public broadcasting of the series in Germany, audiences in Canada can now look forward to watching Bauhaus – A New Era.
It is not overly bold to predict that Bauhaus – A New Era will meet with considerable interest in other countries, too. The school of art founded by Walter Gropius in 1919, which at the time went only by the name “Bauhaus”, became world-famous and can, without doubt, be regarded as formative German cultural heritage.
Lars Kraume: "The story of emancipation was the key"So how did Lars Kraume find a way to access the Bauhaus phenomenon? “First of all I had to consider what really interests me about it”, the director concedes in an interview with Deutsche Welle. He explains that one aspect in particular gave him access to the Bauhaus: “To tell the story from the perspective of women. The story of emancipation that began at that time was the key for me.”
Other aspects then arose during the course of his research, he says: “Of course, making a movie always brings different motifs together”, explains Kraume. He likes to engage “with history, above all with our own.” When making his cinema films, he always “really enjoyed himself” when German history was involved. Moreover, he is interested “in art and architecture”, adding that all of these things came together at the Bauhaus.
the relationship between teacher and studentThe relationship between Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius (August Diehl) and his student Dörte Helm takes center stage in Kraume’s six-part series. An architect who later became famous, Gropius also had a close personal relationship with Helm. And as always in historical series and films that use fiction to approach their subject matter, Bauhaus – A New Era is also based on many facts and historical research, plus a certain amount of poetic license.
“The story is told just as it happened”; Lars Kraume attaches importance to the proportion of historically proven facts within the series, which besides featuring historical debates about architecture and art, also focuses on the relationship between teacher and student: “In establishing the Bauhaus, Gropius declared his goal of gender equality." However, due to “pressure from the conservative citizenry of Weimar, who felt that all went too far”, Gropius was unable to see it through.
Walter Gropius battled on several frontsAs director of the art school, Walter Gropius found himself caught between several stools. This is something that the series makes abundantly clear. Because the various protagonists are associated with specific ideologies and ideas of the time, the viewer is able to grasp the huge aesthetic upheaval that took place: on the one hand, we have politics and society, on which Gropius depended – especially financially. And on the other, we have the views of the teaching body, which were radical at the time, and of course, the women who were beginning to claim their rightful place in art and architecture.
“It was a tug of war in the gender battle, and very interesting – and this is what is at the heart of my narrative”, explains Kraume. The director also shows how far ahead of its time this “battle of the sexes” was – and initially had to deal with numerous setbacks: because “at the end of the day this generation of course still believed that men were the stronger and women the fairer sex.” He adds that men were still convinced “that women are simply unable to think logically.”
the emancipation movement at the BauhausAnna Maria Mühe gives an impressive portrayal of the painter Dörte Helm. She did not want to accept the gender role mindset that was so entrenched at the time, explains Kraume: “She simply didn’t want to be part of all that, and refused to accept it – and continued to kick up a fuss until Gropius finally allowed her to be the first woman to join the class of Oskar Schlemmer (one of the teachers at the Bauhaus, editor’s note).”
As a framing narrative for the series, Kraume used a long interview that a journalist conducted in New York with a then gray-haired Walter Gropius in 1963 in honor of the star architect’s 80th birthday. In it, Gropius looks back at the turbulent years when the Bauhaus was founded, remembers the emergence of the modern era and the battle between conservative forces and the artistic avant-garde.
the Weimar yearsThe director chose to focus specifically on the founding years of the school of art and architecture that was established in Weimar in 1919. As Kraume explains, when he began engaging with the topic, he had “for the most part just a rough idea of the Bauhaus in Dessau”: “But I had no idea at all of the Bauhaus in Weimar, and especially not of the cultural battle that took place at the time, not only in art but also in politics.” And thus the series is also of relevance to the year 2019: “This entire complex, the cultural battle in the Weimar Republic: that is what fundamentally interested me, to understand it and to see how topical it still is and the extent to which we are still discussing the same things today.”
The Bauhaus has lost none of its relevance
In the interview, Director Lars Kraume is convinced that human attitudes have not changed all that much: all one has to do today is “stroll through any museum of contemporary art and look at the questioning faces and the people shaking their heads; people who are still of the opinion that that is not art.” Looking back at the early years of the Bauhaus, one can still sense “how topical the transformation of art and the avant-garde” was at the time.
"Bauhaus – A New Era"
Germany 2019, 6x45 Min.
Production: zero one film in co-production with ZDF and ARTE, Constantin Television, NADCON Film GmbH.
Director: Lars Kraume. Screenplay: Judith Angerbauer, Lars Kraume.
Starring: Anna Maria Mühe, August Diehl, Sven Schelker, Ludwig Trepte, Valerie Pachner, Birgit Minichmayer, and others…
World premiere: 28.06.2019, Munich Film Festival. First broadcast on TV: September 2019, ARTE, ZDF